• Gustavo Serbia

...And What's Wrong With Being a Micromanager?


Google search the word micromanager, and you will find plenty of articles defining what a micromanager is and the negative impact being one has on employees. Low productivity, stress, poor morale, turnover, broken relationships, and even losing one's job are all tied to being a micromanager. According to this article from Harvard Business Review, six signs make you a "clear" micromanager. However, I don't agree that these behaviors, these "signs" are a problem. Let me tell you why.

A micromanager is never satisfied with the results achieved.

What's wrong with always expecting more? Companies demand results. A micromanager must meet and exceed the expectations of the company to remain employed. Pushing employees to do more and help improve the company is a top priority. I don't see anything wrong with this.

The way it was done was not the way you would have done it

Your way, my way, their way. In the end, it is indeed possible that the manager's approach was better. What if the new approach was a waste of time? What if it didn't work? It is too simplistic to say that "he/she only likes it his/her way" as if it was unfounded or without though. Doesn't experience play a role?

Focused too much on the details and correcting others' work

Really? Why is this an issue? Doesn't the saying go, "the devil is in the details." Managers must improve the work of others to ensure the end-result meets the expected standard. Details can make or break presentations, reports, contracts, and many other vital areas. As I see it, details matter and correcting others is part of the gig.

You want to know where your employees are and what they are working on

If a manager doesn't know what employees are working on, how does he/she know they are prioritizing? How does he/she know they are productive? Enough said.

You want updates all the time

Again, if the manager doesn't know the status, he/she needs to ask. Updates are necessary to keep projects running and on time. Still, enough said.

You want to be copied on all emails

Knowing the status of projects, what is completed (or not), said, changed, or canceled, should not be seen as a negative. See, being copied on all email is, in essence, an FYI for the manager. What's wrong with knowing? Can you imagine if your manager is caught in front of his/her boss, not knowing what is happening? How will that reflect on him/her?

Hold a sec.

I am pretty sure that as you read this article, some of you are writing me off (if not already) as a micromanager looking to justify his approach. However, managers must demonstrate "micromanager" behaviors to successfully deliver results and show value. Frankly, if the above actions define what a micromanager is, then I am one. Now, read me out a bit more so I can give you some context.

The employee-manager relationship requires trust; this is the core element of all healthy relationships. The typical behaviors demonstrated by micromanagers can help build a healthy relationship, including trust if used in moderation. Demonstrating micromanager behaviors all the time, at the same level and with everyone is not recommended in almost all situations. Good managers adapt to the circumstances and what they receive in return from employees to then determine how to proceed. The way I see it, managers should demonstrate "micromanager" behaviors strategically.

Whenever I hire new employees, I will admit that I micromanage over the first few weeks. I schedule weekly meetings with the employees. I ask what they are working on, why, and how. I become more critical of their work by increasing the focus on details and level of standard. I pay attention to how they are doing the work and why so I can understand them and ensure they understand what we are trying to accomplish. I also push for better results. However, right from the start, usually within the first couple of days, I explain to my employees my approach and why I do what I do. I want them to know it is not a personal attack on them. I set expectations from the get-go, and I let them know to expect from me a much more "hands-on" approach for the first few weeks. I then explain that as we get to know one another, and their end work product meets the expected deliverables, I will step back, and I do step back. Part of this give and take also requires me to listen, to understand the employee to be able to provide feedback, as well as receive it.

Another situation under which I demonstrate "micromanager behaviors" is with underperforming employees. I rely on regular structured meetings, usually once a week, where the shortcomings and progress made are discussed. I once again explain why I am doing it and what they can expect. Once again, as improvements are demonstrated, I step back.

Micromanager behaviors are not bad

The term micromanager is being used too loosely without the appropriate context; as if the behaviors should not be demonstrated. The behaviors of a micromanager are not inherently bad. It is not the behavior itself, or even their combination, that is the concern. Rather the frequency and timing of the behaviors, as well as how, when, and with whom these are used. Adapting based on the people we work with, especially those reporting to us, and the surrounding circumstances will determine the effectiveness of the behaviors typically linked to micromanagers. Used in moderation, with transparency and flexibility, the six signs of a micromanager can help elevate performance and achieve results.

Your journey, your career. Own it.

If you want your question answered, email me at gus@stretchthestring.com

"The most important instrument to your career development, growth, and success is you. Therefore, you must work to stretch beyond your comfort zone, fine tune what you have to offer, and must do so continuously." - Gustavo Serbia

I work in human resources. For more on my content, follow me on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram, or at StretchTheString.com.

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